Paris Agreement raises defense from Colorado’s left, as Trump weighs leaving international climate change pact

Author: Joey Bunch - May 31, 2017 - Updated: July 31, 2017

President Trump is considering pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, the landmark international deal to curb greenhouse emissions.

Colorado leaders on the left were aghast Wednesday at surrendering the nation’s status as a leader on climate change response, but they couldn’t have been surprised. Trump promised as much on the campaign trail, even surmising climate change was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.

“Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would represent an abdication of American values,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Denver, said in a statement. “This would be yet another example of President Trump’s ‘Putting America Last’ agenda—last in innovation, last in science, and last in international leadership. The Paris Agreement has wide support—from global oil and gas companies to coal generators in our Western states. We should not be moving backwards as the rest of the world races forward to compete in the clean energy industry.

“We cannot ignore the threat of climate change. In Colorado and throughout the West, we have seen its effects through increased droughts and wildfires. Yet, by investing in clean energy, we’ve grown our economy and created good-paying jobs. In Colorado, where we have the lowest unemployment rate in the country, we will continue to build on the progress we’ve made to reduce carbon pollution and implement policies, like the Clean Power Plan, that improve our economy, public health and national security.”

The agreement was signed by agreement in 2015. Participation is voluntary and its terms are non-binding.

“The U.S. is the leader in clean reliable energy, being part of the Paris agreement was symbolic, at best,” said Sen. Ray Scott, a Republican from Grand Junction who chairs the state Senate’s Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. “We have a 100 year history using fossil fuels and beyond to better everything from clean water, clean air, advanced medical equipment to shoes on our feet, we’ll be just fine without the Paris agreement.”

A month ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper was one of 12 Democratic governors who formally asked Trump not to pull out of the agreement.

“Remaining in the Paris Agreement is crucial to Colorado’s future,” Hickenlooper said then . “Clean energy is a win for Colorado jobs, a win for Colorado consumers, and a win for cleaner air. We look forward to continuing our progress and working with this administration to create 21st century jobs for a 21st century workforce.”

The governor said Colorado is one of the country’s largest “clean energy” employers with nearly about 2,100 such companies and more than 62,000 jobs and $3.6 billion in wages.

“Colorado’s renewable energy industry is poised for significant growth in the years ahead, which will help clean Colorado’s air, reduce consumers’ electricity bills, and support well-paying jobs,” the governor’s office reported.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Boulder, and other Democrats introduced a pointless resolution in the Republican House in February to ask Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement.

“We must protect our jobs, health & climate,” Polis tweeted Wednesday.

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrate from Denver, wrote on Twitter Wednesday, “@POTUS’ reported decision to leave the #ParisAgreement harms our country and our planet in so many ways.”

None of the state’s Republican congressional delegation had tweeted about the Paris Climate Agreement as of mid-afternoon.

Pete Maysmith, the executive director of Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental organization, called Trump, “a reckless embarrassment for our nation.”

“Considering that the U.S. is one of the largest carbon polluters in the world, this decision will have the disastrous consequences,” Maysmith said in a statement. “On top of that, the rest of the world will move forward without us in terms of innovation and international diplomacy while the U.S. will be stuck in the polluting days of the past.

“Considering that there is now a tremendous vacuum in U.S. leadership when it comes to curbing climate change, we call on states to take the lead. In particular, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper must take any action necessary to set our state on track to achieve the carbon pollution reductions laid out in the Paris climate agreements.”

Conservation Colorado noted that the Paris Agreement, as its known, is a voluntary partnership that sets a non-binding goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Colorado would aim for an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

Critics have said climate-change deals are just a way for liberals to hurt energy and coal jobs, while driving up costs for consumers.

I reached out to many of those in Colorado who usually oppose such proposals, and I’m waiting to hear back … and waiting and waiting and waiting.

Many conservatives and interest groups, in general, are proving to be slow to respond to any hypothetical questions when it comes to unpredictable president.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include Sen. Ray Scott’s comment.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.